JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Unhipcat from B-Bar-H, CA
Hi, John. Beyond the obvious "seeing how Lawrence adjusts to and develops in the NFL," what and whom are you looking for and at when camp opens next week? P.S., some national radio guy yesterday said Lawrence won't reach 4,000 yards because of the Jags "makeshift offensive line." So there's that.
That radio guy's comment is misinformed. That's understandable on one level, because national analysts typically don't have the time nor inclination to be as informed about a team as local analysts. But while there are questions about the Jaguars' offensive line entering the season, it's not even close being "makeshift." It's a line that likely will have the same five starters Week 1 this season as have opened the last two regular seasons, making it one of the most experienced position groups in the NFL in terms of cohesion. Also: rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence reaching 4,000 yards passing in 2021 will be far more about his development and the Jaguars' overall approach offensively than it will be a specific commentary on the offensive line. As far as what I'll be looking for entering 2021 Training Camp … it's tough to cite just one area. The Jaguars' defensive line is a big area to watch, along with the secondary. I want to see how a talented, deep receiver position plays out. How will the Jaguars use rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr.? How will the offensive look under coordinator Darrell Bevell? How will the defense look under coordinator Joe Cullen? Will longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette wear those shorts with that shirt like he did in organized team activities? There's a lot to sort through. Stay tuned.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL
Your answer to the question regarding great running back tandems got me thinking about my favorite pre-Jaguar team – the franchise now known as the Washington Football Team. The greatest running back in that franchise was John Riggins. But Riggo was a fullback, so there must have been some great running backs playing with him, right? Mike Thomas? Benny Malone? Clarence Harmon? Joe Washington? Oh, never mind …
Those players did play with Riggins. Thomas at one point was my favorite player, and was a 1,000-yard rusher for the 1976 wild-card team that won its final four games to make the postseason. I waited in a lobby in a Tampa Holiday Inn for hours for his autograph. Washington was a great player on the franchise's 1982-1983 NFC Championship teams. But none were quite good enough to pair with Riggins and rank among the best running-back tandems of all time.
Dave from Atlantic Beach, FL
Re: Jalen Ramsey. Apparently, there IS crying in football.
That's not nice.
Steve from Nashville, TN
What do you see for Carlos Hyde this year? Just two years ago with the Houston Texans he had over a thousand yards rushing. Do you see the Jaguars just carrying three running backs on the 53-man roster?
I absolutely see the Jaguars having at least three running backs on the 53-player regular-season roster. It could be a situation where they realistically have four backs much of the season, with at least a fourth on the practice squad and therefore ready to play if one of the other three running backs is unavailable. I expect those three to be James Robinson, Travis Etienne Jr. and Hyde. A potential fourth could come into play because Etienne isn't likely to be as much a true running back in this scheme as he is a hybrid running back/receiver. As for Hyde, it seems likely he will enter the season as a complementary/backup to Robinson. That's an important role in this offense because the Jaguars want to be run heavy and use a variety of backs to share carries. Robinson was effective as a rookie, but he had far too many carries. The Jaguars' ideal will be for more production from the entire group with Robinson not having to bear all of the workload.
Josh from Atlanta, GA
Bill from Ponte Vedra sure loves that pedestal. I wish I had one that tall.
That's not nice, either.
Ryan from Pontiac, IL
Zone. Why is there never much talk about former Florida Gator great CJ Henderson? Seems he is almost becoming an afterthought already on this team. To me, he is THE X-Factor on defense for this team to be above average. If he can become the No. 1 lockdown cornerback the Jaguars drafted him to be, it will open up a lot of options for this defense. It will allow Griffin to be more of the No. 2 cornerback, which I think he is much more suited for, and allow the rest of the cornerbacks to defend more of the backup wide receivers on opposing teams. How do you feel about CJ's importance to this team? He is only starting his second year in the league and was a Top 7 pick after all.
Good eye. Henderson absolutely is critical to the defense for many reasons, including a couple that you cite. Henderson, a cornerback from Florida, was the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. That makes him the earliest-drafted player on the Jaguars' defense other than defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen, who was selected No. 7 overall in 2019. That makes Henderson absolutely critical to the Jaguars' defense – and to the Jaguars' secondary. The team needs him to be a lockdown cornerback, and they need Henderson, linebacker Myles Jack and Allen to be elite performers. If that happens, the Jaguars would have elite players at all three levels of the defense – and that's a foundation around which a defense can build. Henderson's impact on the secondary in that scenario would be exactly the one you cite. It would give the Jaguars an elite corner on one side and a big-time player at the No. 2 spot, therefore turning what was a weak position last season into a strength. As for why there isn't much talk about Henderson, he hasn't done much to inspire such things. He had a couple of really good games and a lot of inconsistent ones as a rookie. He missed much of the season because of injury. He must improve. If he does there will be plenty of talk.
Claudio from Barcelona, Spain
Hi, O! For those willing to trade James Robinson to the Los Angeles Rams for their next first-round pick, it is good to know the Rams don't own any first-round pick until 2024. I wouldn't do THAT trade.
I wouldn't, either.
I've seen it reported that former FSU coach Bobby Bowden has been given a terminal diagnosis. He has meant a great deal to college football and he along with his staff have prepared a lot of young men for the NFL over the years. Did you ever cover or interview Bowden during your early career?
I never covered Bowden. My path at the Florida Times-Union early in my career was high school sports for a few years, then University of Florida sports from 1993-1995 – after which Pete Prisco and I covered the Jaguars from 1995-2000. I therefore only covered Florida State a couple of times while covering the Gators. Still, having lived in Jacksonville and followed college football as a fan from the late 1970s forward – and covering recruiting and the University of Florida – Bowden during much of that time was a figure who towered over the sport both nationally and locally. While I never met him more than a handshake at an occasional media event, the stories you heard both publicly and privately were legendary. Many of my writer friends covered him, and you never hear anything except that he was as classy, gracious and genuine as any coach ever. His legacy obviously is secure and it's not difficult to believe it when he says he is at peace with what is to come.
Sean from Jacksonville
Can I hit the snooze button on my dead zone hibernation clock? Yes, I know I had to wake up briefly to write this question.
You can do whatever you want. Within reason.
Dwayne from Jacksonville
Since you said you still make time for asinine, I have always wondered why Mrs. Ozone isn't the #1 fan of the King of All Funk. Then you asked this: "But I'm not sure what you mean by trimming toenails. Can you do that?" Maybe you're just too funky.
The toenail approach doesn't help. But there's a simple reason Mrs. O-Zone isn't my No. 1 fan. I'm not all that likeable even in short stretches. Long-term? Well, let's just say it's a lot.
Definitely Trevor Lawrence from Jacksonville, baby
John, I got your sternly worded eCard and I am so sorry. I really was going to invite you to the river, but it was kind of a "receivers only" thing. Please stop loudly playing Amy Winehouse in the offices. It really was just a miscommunication.
I didn't want to go anyway. You can't hurt me. No one can hurt me anymore.